Killers of the Flower Moon [Book Review]

February 9, 2018

true crime….cruel and incomprehensible racial injustice…greed…

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (cover) Image: White text over a burnt orange and goldish moonlit sky .... a tall oil derrick is silouetted by the moon

Genre/categories: Nonfiction, True Crime, Native American, U.S. History, Racial Injustice, Osage

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Killers of the Flower Moon is a true-crime murder mystery involving the wealthy Osage Indian Nation of Oklahoma in the 1920s. After oil was discovered beneath the wasteland that they had been forced to live on, the Osage became extremely rich. However, one by one, members of the Osage began to die under suspicious circumstances, or as some believed to be killed off. To introduce readers to this community and the crime, the author closely follows the story of Mollie Burkhart and her family.  It was dangerous to investigate the murders because investigators could also die under mysterious circumstances. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly formed F.B.I. took up the case.  The F.B.I also experienced difficulty in the investigation until J. Edgar Hoover enlisted Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, to form an undercover team to unravel the mystery. White’s team (which included a Native American) infiltrated the region and employed the latest modern techniques of investigation. This story tells whether or not they were able to expose one of the most monstrous and heinous crimes in American history.


Amazon Rating (February): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

Structure: True crime isn’t my preferred genre and Killers of the Flower Moon is dense with detail;  however, I found the true account compelling overall and especially as I focused on the fascinating character of Tom White, an unsung hero. The story is structured in three parts: first, we are introduced to Mollie Burkhart and readers become acquainted with her inheritance and wealth, her family, the crimes, and the principal players in the community; second, we follow the F.B.I.’s attempts in the investigation, we learn about the intrigue and corruption, and in particular we meet F.B.I. agent Tom White;  last, the story ends from a reporter’s perspective (Grann’s)  as he attempts additional research and demonstrates that the crime that White uncovered was really just the tip of the iceberg.  Lest one assumes that Tom White is merely a “white savior” as some reviewers have mentioned, Grann makes it clear that the combination of widespread corruption and the powerless Osage required a white person to take on the white system.

Unforgettable Character: In particular, I enjoyed the exploration into the character of Tom White. For taking on an extremely high-profile and dangerous assignment, he was rather soft-spoken, nonviolent, fair, trustworthy, and humble. His good character is in stark contrast to the character traits of the corrupt community authorities. Bravely and courageously, he conducted a most difficult investigation, one that would greatly enhance the reputation of the F.B.I. if solved. Later in White’s career when he was the head of the prison that took in the prisoners that were convicted in the Osage murders, he shook their hands and welcomed them to the prison and insisted that they were to be treated fairly.  In addition, when the person who murdered his own brother was admitted to the prison, White never mentioned his presence to anyone. White wanted every prisoner to be treated equally and fairly. A humble man who didn’t seek the limelight, it is unfortunate that White was never properly recognized publicly for the important contributions he made to the Osage case.

Voice: It’s unfortunate that the white culture hasn’t listened to or heard the Osage Nation, and credit is given to David Grann for hearing their voice and telling this well-researched story that documents the crimes against the Osage and includes interviews with many in the Osage community. I wish that the first part of the story could have been told from an authentic Osage perspective. I think if the Osage could tell their own story, it would help them find a stronger voice. Perhaps co-authoring might have worked well for this book.

Reading Tip: My husband experienced reading this on audible and found the second narrator the most compelling and enjoyable of the three. He wished the entire story had been told by this second narrator. So if you purchase Killers of the Flower Moon through audible and are not enthralled with the first narrator, the second is much better (in his opinion).

Recommended. Killers of the Flower Moon is highly recommended for readers who love the true crime genre, for readers who want to further explore the topic of racial injustice as it affects Native Americans, for those who enjoy reading about historical events, and for readers who are looking for compelling, thought-provoking, narrative nonfiction.

Own Voices: If you are an own voices reviewer, please leave your review link in the comments.

My Rating: 4 Stars


Killers of the Flower Moon

Killer of the Flower Moon Information Here

Meet the Author, David Grann

Author David GrannDAVID GRANN is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. His latest book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, was released in April. Based on years of research, it explores one of the most sinister crimes and racial injustices in American history.

His first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, became a #1 New York Times bestseller and has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, the book was chosen as one of the best books of 2009 by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Bloomberg, Publishers Weekly, and the Christian Science Monitor, and it also won the Indies Choice award for the best nonfiction book of that year.

Grann’s other book, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, contains many of his New Yorker stories, and was named by Men’s Journal one of the best true crime books ever written. The stories in the collection focus on everything from the mysterious death of the world’s greatest Sherlock Holmes expert to a Polish writer who might have left clues to a real murder in his postmodern novel. Another piece, “Trial by Fire,” exposed how junk science led to the execution of a likely innocent man in Texas. The story received a George Polk award for outstanding journalism and a Silver Gavel award for fostering the public’s understanding of the justice system. His stories have also been a source of material for feature films. “Old Man and the Gun”—which is in The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, and is about an aging stick-up man and prison escape artist—is slated to be directed by David Lowery and to star Robert Redford.

Over the years, Grann’s stories have appeared in The Best American Crime Writing; The Best American Sports Writing; and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He has previously written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

Before joining The New Yorker in 2003, Grann was a senior editor at The New Republic, and, from 1995 until 1996, the executive editor of the newspaper The Hill. He holds master’s degrees in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as well as in creative writing from Boston University. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1989, he received a Thomas Watson Fellowship and did research in Mexico, where he began his career in journalism.


Is Killers of the Flower Moon on your TBR or have you read it?

Do you keep a balance between fiction and nonfiction in your reading life? Is the balance 50-50 or do you read more of one than the other? Which do you prefer that I review?

What are you reading this week?

Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Tex

Looking Ahead:

I’m planning a review of this ARC (advanced reader’s copy) next week:

A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety
by Michelle Balge

A Way Out

 A Way Out Information Here

I’m continuing to read Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR).

Prairie Fires

Prairie Fires Information Here

My TBR and the BUZZ

I’m noticing lots of buzz (great reviews) lately about three books (all Book of the Month Club selections): The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (author of The Nightingale), and As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner. I’m adding them to the top of my TBR, so look for reviews soon!

I also just heard that Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache series) will be releasing a new installment in November of this year! (no title or cover yet)
#meetmeinthreepines #threepinesgeek
available for preorder

What are you reading this week?


Modern Mrs. Darcy published a list of  25 Must-Read Classics for Women.
How many have you read?

If you’re looking for Christian fiction, check out this post from The Caffeinated Bibliophile: Eight Christian Romance Books to Read for Valentine’s Day.

There’s still time to read or reread Wrinkle in Time before the movie release on March 9.
Will you be seeing the movie?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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